Easy summer rides: 10 ways to maintain your vehicle

You’re preparing to go on a road-trip to San Diego or Las Vegas from Phoenix, you get moving along the highway, then between Yuma and Calexico, you blow a tire.

Your vacation becomes a disaster very quickly. With proper maintenance and care for your vehicle, you can improve the performance and reliability of your car or truck so this won’t happen to you. Over the years, I’ve learned the value of proper vehicle maintenance.

At the outset, you should understand that Arizona is an extreme climate according to vehicle manufacturers. Meaning, they don’t engineer their cars to be driving in Arizona. The “scheduled maintenance” guides that are in owner’s manuals and suggested by dealers don’t account for extreme weather conditions, unless specifically noted. It should be no question why the Ford Proving Grounds are located just northwest of Phoenix near the AZ-303.

Routine maintenance is preventative by nature. There shouldn’t be “problem” that prompts you to do it. To gain an appreciation for preventative maintenance, you have to understand all that is happening between your foot on the gas pedal and the tires on your wheels. I’ll walk you through it:

  1. From an engine-on state in in gear, you step on the gas and that opens up your throttle plate, forcing air into the intake past the air filter.
  2. As the volume of air increases, your fuel injectors increase their pulsations causing more fuel to match with the air ratio, resulting in a stoichiometric balance of of 14.7:1 air to fuel mixture. The air and fuel is captured into the cylinder when the intake air valve opens.
  3. Then as the piston rises back up to maximum compression, your ignition system fires a spark causing a very powerful and contained explosion, pushing the piston down.
  4. As the piston goes to the bottom of its stroke, turning the crankshaft, which also is connected to the intake and exhaust valves of other cylinders.
  5. The crankshaft is then turned one revolution, the piston returns to the top, your exhaust valve opens, allowing the spent gasses to exit the chamber.
  6. The exhaust flows into a catalytic converter and one or more Oxygen sensors. The data captured by the sensors (voltage) tells the computer of the car to adjust the A/F mixture for reduced emissions and fuel efficiency.
  7. Then that kinetic energy is transferred to the torque converter (automatics) or clutch (sticks).
  8. (In automatics) The transmission builds pressure that determines the right gear the car should be in along with a host of electronics that monitor the current vehicle speed, engine load and braking systems. Then the transmission uses the proper gear that turns the driveshaft.
  9. Your driveshaft turns the axle that turns the hubs, which hold the rotors, brakes, wheels and tires.
  10. Finally, your potential energy (gas) is converted into kinetic energy (motion) and your car rolls forward.